On 17 November 2011, Thursday, Huta D. Hindocha breathed her last. One of the closest disciples of the Mother whose notable publications include The Story of A Soul, White Roses, About Savitri, Mother, You Said So and Salutations, she departed on the very day the Mother had withdrawn from the physical in 1973.
As a mark of our tribute to her, we are publishing an article on her penned by Shraddhavan in the website of Overman Foundation. Shraddhavan is a writer, educator, translator and editor. She was a student of English language and literature at Bristol University in the United Kingdoms who joined Auroville in 1970 and two years later the Mother gave her the name of ‘Shraddhavan’. She is the In-charge of ‘Savitri Bhavan’, the centre for Sri Aurobindo studies at Auroville which emphasizes on Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem, ‘Savitri’. She also serves as the Editor of the journal Invocation published by ‘Savitri Bhavan’.
With warm regards,
Huta – ‘The Offered One’ – a very special child of the Mother
Every one of the Mother’s children is special – I believe that she has said that none of her children can be a zero: each has something special about them, because their souls have been touched by the Mother’s Grace. Nevertheless, if we look back across the years at the unfolding of the history of the Ashram, a number of especially special children of the Mother stand out. Huta, who passed away on November 17, 2011, is surely one of those whose memory and legacy will leave a lasting imprint.
She was born in East Africa, to a prosperous family of Gujarati entrepreneurs, where she had a number of experiences indicating that she was destined for a spiritual life and felt drawn to the Mother even before meeting her for the first time on November 1st, 1954. Thereafter, the Mother considered this date her spiritual birthday. In February 1955, she joined the Ashram and the Mother gave her the name Huta, “The Offered One”. For the next 18 years she enjoyed a unique relationship with the Mother.
The story of their relationship is recorded in Huta’s books, starting with Salutations – her own translation into English of the prayers which she wrote to the Mother in Gujarati before she ever met her, while she was still living with her family in East Africa. The Mother saw the Gujarati manuscript and concentrated on it, before giving Huta blessings to translate it into English and publish it. On these prayers the Mother commented: “This is how all sincere aspirations are fulfilled.”
Then came White Roses – messages of value to all seekers, collected from the Mother’s many letters to Huta. (Mother once told her ‘I have never written so many letters to anyone as I have to you’ and Huta once told me that in all she had received over 8000 letters and cards from the Mother.) The Mother wished White Roses to be translated into many languages and made available all over the world, and some translations are already done, including a Gujarati translation by Huta herself. Tamil, French, Italian and Russian translations were made by people living in or connected with Auroville. A Hindi translation is also available. Surely more will come in the future.
Another project was The Story of a Soul – the name given by the Mother to Huta’s autobiographical notes, with the message ‘This is the interesting story of how a being discovers the Divine Life.’ For many years instalments of The Story appeared monthly in Mother India; and more recently the early parts have been published in book form. More volumes were planned. These narratives, put together from diary notes, give an inspiring picture of Huta, her aspiration and her difficulties, as well as of the Mother’s dealings with this special child of hers.
Gems from the Mother to Huta contains facsimiles of the Mother’s own handwriting, inspiring messages and quotations from wise men from many times and cultures, which the Mother sent on cards to Huta while she was away from the Ashram on a visit to her family in East Africa.
Another treasure is Victory of the Truth, where Tara Jauhar’s photographs of the Mother’s hands in various mudras are presented along with the Mother’s explanations and comments, and relevant quotations from the writings of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.
Most recently, Huta brought out in book form her transcriptions of some of the Mother’s talks with her, corrected and authorised for publication by Mother under the title ‘You said so …’. At the time of Huta’s passing on November 17, 2011 she had been working on several books in which she intended to share with the world some of the many illuminating secrets which the Mother had communicated to her.
It was from 1956 onwards that the Mother, herself a gifted artist, started training Huta in oil-painting. It seems she had a special purpose in this, for she stated that she had earlier tried with several other people before Huta was born. She wished to find someone with the right kind of receptivity to be able to give expression through painting to her own vision. Although Huta had no any earlier experience with art, she responded to the Mother’s teaching and several of her visionary paintings were selected by the Mother to be printed for distribution as New Year cards.
In October 1961 the Mother initiated the work of illustrating Savitri using Huta’s hands. She gave the name “Meditations on Savitri” to this project, and has herself has described how they worked :
Savitri, this prophetic vision of the world’s history, including the announcement of the earth’s future. – Who can ever dare to put it in pictures ?
Yet, the Mother and Huta have tried it, this way.
We simply meditate together on the lines chosen, and when the image becomes clear, I describe it with the help of a few strokes, then Huta goes to her studio and brushes the painting.
It is in a meditative mood that these “meditations” must be looked at to find the feeling they contain behind their appearance.
Of course the Mother would see the completed paintings, and sometimes asked for changes to be made before she was satisfied. The resulting series of 472 paintings was exhibited in the Ashram in February 1967. For that occasion the Mother gave the following message;
The importance of Savitri is immense.
Its subject is universal.
Its revelation is prophetic.
Take all the time necessary to see the exhibition.
The time spent in its atmosphere is not wasted.
It will be a happy compensation for the feverish haste men put now in all they do.
The Mother had the paintings corresponding to selected passages from Book One of Savitri published in book form from 1962 onwards in four volumes covering Canto One, Cantos Two and Three, Canto Four and Canto Five. However most of those paintings were redone before the exhibition of 1967, and the volumes have now been out of print for many years.
As part of the celebrations for Sri Aurobindo’s Centenary in 1972, the Mother gave blessings to Aurovilian Richard Eggenberger, whom she later named Narad, to photograph all the Meditations on Savitri paintings and present them as a series of slide shows, which were then shown in the Ashram and in Auroville. The tape-recordings which Huta had made of the Mother’s readings of the selected passages from Savitri which correspond to the paintings were used with the Mother’s own organ music as a sound-track for the slide shows. The same recordings were also given to the Ashram musician Sunil, the Mother’s composer, for him to prepare music to accompany them. His wonderful compositions, combined with the Mother’s powerful readings, have been a source of inspiration and delight to many people. Unfortunately he was able to reach only the end of Book Ten before passing away in 1997.
In December 1967, Huta took to the Mother a file containing all the passages of the Meditations, and asked her,
Mother, will you please explain them to me and allow me to take down your explanations on the recorder? Then surely people will understand the Savitri paintings more easily.
In reply the Mother said enthusiastically:
If I have to explain these passages, I would prefer to start from the very beginning and give a full explanation of the whole of Savitri.
Already in 1954, Amal Kiran reports, the Mother had told a small group of sadhaks:
Savitri is occult knowledge and spiritual experience. Some part of it can be understood mentally, but much of it needs the same knowledge and experience for understanding it. Nobody except myself can explain Savitri. One day I hope to explain it in its true sense.
From January 1968 up to August 1970 the Mother met Huta regularly for this work, to which she gave the name About Savitri. The first volume of the Mother’s explanations, covering Book One Canto One accompanied by paintings of Huta, was published in 1972. For this volume the Mother gave her message :
Savitri – the supreme revelation of Sri Aurobindo’s vision
About Savitri was published in four parts, corresponding to Canto One (1972), Canto Two (2002), Canto Three (2005) and the first half of Canto Four (2006) of Book One of Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri. While the earlier series Meditations on Savitri consists of paintings inspired directly by the poem, in this later series the paintings made by Huta under the Mother’s guidance are inspired by the Mother’s comments on Sri Aurobindo’s mantric lines. Unfortunately the work was discontinued from August 1970 by the Mother.
Huta had a strong connection with Auroville – a letter of hers to the Mother in 1965 inspired the creation of Matrimandir, the Mother’s Shrine; and it was to Huta that the Mother first explained, with sketches, her concept for the town-plan of Auroville. In 1966 Huta produced the painting which the Mother named ‘The Spirit of Auroville.’ All this is told in her books Matrimandir – the Mother’s Truth and Love and The Spirit of Auroville.
I first met Huta in 1972 through my friend Christl Klostermann, who like me was living in Aspiration, Auroville at that time. She had been assisting her husband, Michel Klostermann, in preparing the first film that was made, with the Mother’s Blessings, of Huta’s Meditations on Savitri paintings. When that film was shown for the first time, in the courtyard of Huta house, I was amongst the invited guests. I remember that at the same time we were shown a film of the Mother opening the New Horizon Sugar Mills, which had been established by Huta’s brothers. It was the first time I had seen a film of the Mother – an unforgettable experience.
In retrospect it seems significant that my first contact with Huta was in connection with her work with the Mother on Savitri. Although we had intermittent contacts over the intervening years, some in connection with Matrimandir and Auroville matters, some in Amal’s office, and I was once invited to her apartment in Huta House, our relationship became closer in the late 1990s with the creation of Savitri Bhavan.
Savitri Bhavan has grown out of a dream that was first formulated by a member of the Savitri Study Circle, initiated in Auroville on November 24, 1994. Suresh De, then Secretary of the Auroville Foundation, invited some Aurovilians to meet on that day and proposed the idea that Sri Aurobindo’s revelatory epic should be studied on a regular basis. The idea took hold, and the Study Circle has met every Sunday morning since then – at first here and there wherever a room was available. One of the group, now deceased, Narayanbhai, expressed the wish that there ought to be a place in Auroville where all materials that would support and help a deeper understanding and appreciation of Savitri could be gathered and made available in such a way that any sensitive person coming there – even if they knew nothing about Sri Aurobindo and the Mother or the poem – would feel ‘Here is something special’. This idea must have been an inspiration from the Master himself. Definitely it has received his Blessing. On November 24, 1995 Nirodbaran laid the Foundation Stone of the Savitri Bhavan at a ceremony that was attended by many Ashramites and Aurovilians, on a beautiful plot of land between the Bharat Nivas and the Matrimandir that had been assigned to it on the specific instructions of Roger Anger, the Mother’s architect for Auroville.
It took some years for the first permanent building to come up – it was inaugurated on August 8 1999, again by Nirodbaran. It was after this that Huta began to take a great interest in the Bhavan. When our architect, Helmut, asked the members of the Study Circle to formulate what facilities would be needed for the Bhavan, and we thought about the kind of resources that were or were likely to become available there, none of us dreamed that Huta’s Meditations on Savitri paintings would ever come there. They were almost legendary creations, which we had heard about but knew only from the illustrations in the books published by the Mother in the early 1960s when they were still in creation – illustrations based on early versions of paintings which were later redone. But still we hoped that if Savitri Bhavan became the place we dreamed of, perhaps Huta would allow us to exhibit some of the paintings from time to time. As it turned out, she herself had another inspiration.
After the final series of Meditations on Savitri paintings was exhibited in the Ashram exhibition hall in February 1967 they were stored in a special room in Golconde allotted to Huta’s materials by the Mother. There the paintings and the Mother’s sketches for them could be glimpsed sometimes by privileged people at Huta’s invitation. But they were not entirely welcome there – the Golconde management would have preferred them to have another home. And Huta too from the very beginning felt that this was not their proper place. She told me that in 1967, when all of the Meditations on Savitri paintings had been exhibited in the Ashram and were being kept at Golconde, she communicated to the Mother her strong feeling that “Savitri must have her own place”. The Mother went into a deep concentration, then said emphatically, “It will be.”
When Savitri Bhavan was started, Huta felt that this was the “own place” which the Mother had promised for Savitri. She invited some of us to meet her to discuss the possibility of her collection being housed at Savitri Bhavan. As I was acting as the coordinator of the Savitri Bhavan team, from that time onwards we began to work together with increasing closeness and in June 2001 the entire set of 472 oil paintings illustrating the whole of Savitri, entitled by the Mother “Meditations on Savitri”, was entrusted to Savitri Bhavan, along with facsimiles of the Mother’s original sketches, written instructions and comments, copies of her recorded recitations of the selected passages, and of her recorded explanations of Savitri. This is a unique treasure, which will be a goldmine of insight to future scholars seeking to gain a deeper understanding of Sri Aurobindo’s vision. To house and display this priceless collection under secure and state of the art conditions, as well as providing the necessary curatorial and research facilities, is now an important aspect of the work of Savitri Bhavan.
In August 2008 the Savitri Bhavan Picture Gallery was opened with the first exhibition of Meditations on Savitri paintings. It is not yet possible to have the entire series on permanent display according to the Mother’s wish, but that is the aim. Meanwhile rotating exhibitions of about 90 paintings at a time are shown, along with the corresponding passages from Sri Aurobindo’s poem. We are deeply grateful to Aurovilian photographer Giorgio Molinari, who has taken digital photographs of all the paintings and provided magnificent archival quality reproductions of them in the actual size of the originals. This enables us to display them in the original frames prepared when the paintings were first exhibited in the Ashram in 1967.
Moreover, at Huta’s request, these photographs of Giorgio have been made into digital films by another Aurovilian from Italy – Manohar (Luigi Fedele). Each half-hour film is accompanied by the original soundtrack prepared for the slide-shows made for Sri Aurobindo’s centenary in 1972, from the recordings of the Mother’s voice made by Huta in the 1960s mixed with the Mother’s own recorded organ music.
After the Meditations on Savitri paintings were moved to Auroville in June 2001, Huta visited us at Savitri Bhavan, to meet the team members and to see where the paintings were being kept, in the cupboards that had been made for them according to the Mother’s design and instructions. She came again in August 2005, with her cousin Mr. Lalit Modi and his wife and sister. At that time the main building, which was to include the Picture Gallery intended exclusively to display the Meditations on Savitri paintings, was just at the foundation stage. Apart from these two visits, the only times she came to Savitri Bhavan, I used to meet Huta two or three times a month, first at her apartment in Ambabikshu Gardens, and later in the house in rue de la Compagnie, behind the Ashram Library, which was allotted to her by the Ashram Trust and renovated at her expense – she named it ‘Gratitude’. These were mostly working meetings, when she would be giving me things to be kept in her collection at Savitri Bhavan, with instructions about what was to be done with them and how they were to be cared for or consulting me about her publications. In fact it was from that time on that the output of new publications from Havyavahana Trust began and went on increasing considerably.
When we were together Huta would often tell me about her experiences with the Mother, particularly during the time when the Savitri paintings were being made; and at other times she would share with me various things that were on her mind, troubling her. Those meetings were not always easy for me. This small sweet-looking lady, who could be so loving and generous and appreciative, also had somewhere within her a lion who would wake up and roar fiercely at anything she felt was contrary to the Mother’s wish and will. She worked tremendously hard, made enormous efforts to fulfil the mission she felt the Mother had given her, and she expected everyone else to come up to her own high standards. Any slackness or carelessness would annoy her, and if she felt any intention to distort the Mother’s intentions she could become frighteningly fierce. I have heard that it was very difficult for those whose work brought them into close daily contact with the Mother to bear the pressure of her will for perfection and progress. Although I only met Huta two or three times a month – apart from frequent phone calls – I felt some similar pressure. Yet I learned a great deal from her, and she was constantly giving generously. She felt that everything she had to share was a gift from the Mother which it was her duty and mission to pass on to future generations and humanity as a whole. Gradually she came to trust and rely on me more and more, and she appreciated the affection and respect shown to her by the members of the Savitri Bhavan team. Each year she would ask me the list of names, as the team grew and changed, so that she could send a gift to all, usually in August.
On October 2nd 2011 Huta phoned to tell me that our appointment to meet the following Wednesday would have to be postponed as she was going into the Ashram Nursing Home to receive glucose drip treatments. On the phone that day her voice sounded as strong and determined as usual, but I knew that her body was getting dangerously weak. Over the previous months I had seen her drastically losing weight, and could see that she was finding it more and more difficult to keep up with all the work that she still felt she had to do. Since 2000 Havyavahana Trust had brought out one or two significant new publications each year, and many more were in preparation or planned, not to mention reprints of perennial best-sellers such as the various translations of White Roses – especially the Tamil version – and Victory of the Truth; but over the last year she had insisted that she must concentrate on preparing new books: reprints and translations, she said, could wait until she was no longer with us.
On August 24 2011 at her request I had taken Manohar to meet her. She wanted to thank him for completing the work of making films of all the Meditations on Savitri paintings. Manohar had not met Huta since she visited Savitri Bhavan in August 2005, when he was just starting that project. He was struck by the change in her physical appearance since then. But she was the same Huta in all her loving generosity when she received us. She discussed with Manohar the possibility of making further films of her paintings, starting with the ones inspired by lines from some of Sri Aurobindo’s poems, to be followed by the About Savitri series and others which she was also planning to publish in book form – the Earlier Paintings of flowers and items from the Mother’s collections of rare objects which the Mother used to send her to paint when she was teaching her the art of oil painting in 1957-60, as well as some remarkable Visionary Paintings. She was very happy when Manohar agreed to make a start with the Paintings inspired by Poems of Sri Aurobindo.
She told us that a collection of sketches made on tinted handmade papers illustrating visions of the Mother and herself was then with the Ashram Press to appear soon with the title Joy of Light. Next on the list for publication, she explained, was a much expanded version of an essay called ‘My Savitri Work with the Mother’ which she had contributed to the second volume of R.Y. Deshpande’s collection Perspectives of Savitri, published in 2002. That essay was also serialised in the Savitri Bhavan journal Invocation. Now she had added a lot of new material, she told us and it was to be brought out in two parts by Havyavahana Trust. (Preparing these two volumes was the last work that my colleague Tatiana and I worked on for Huta. She also told Tatiana that she should start preparing The Story of a Soul Part 3 (1957) but work on this project was postponed as her health declined.)
Then on September 7th Helmut (the architect of Savitri Bhavan) accompanied me when I went to her – Huta wanted to see him before he left for Germany on a visit to see his seriously-ill elder brother. As we returned to Auroville in the car, both of us felt that this might be the last time that we would see her: she seemed so frail and thin, it was as if she could just fade away at any moment. After that I met her again for a few minutes on September 21st to hand over a cheque. She told me that she had got out of bed specially to receive me, after being mostly bedridden for the two weeks since I was last there.
On the day of the last phone call, I was able to inform her that Manohar had completed the first of two films of the Paintings inspired by Poems of Sri Aurobindo – which made her very happy. That was the last time I spoke to her.
During the first week or two of her stay in the Nursing Home, when she was receiving the glucose drips, Huta did not want to receive any visitors. On November 1st – her spiritual birthday – I tried to phone her there, but was told she was resting. After that we heard that she was improving, that the drips had been discontinued and that she was on a liquid diet. My own health difficulties prevented me from visiting her in those last weeks, but news received through friends indicated to me that she was extremely weak – too weak even to speak, it seemed – perhaps she only preferred to keep silent.
So when the news came on November 17th that she had left us, it was not entirely a shock – rather there was the feeling that she had made a conscious choice to depart on that significant day. But there was, and remains, the sense of a great loss. So much of the work that Huta planned to do remains incomplete. For instance, she wished to publish all the Meditations on Savitri paintings in a series of 4 volumes, accompanied by a further volume showing some of the sketches which the Mother made to guide her in the course of the work. She wanted to write a book on all that the Mother had taught her about Occultism, and hoped to share all the research she herself had done about Savitri in a series entitled Savitri: the Supreme Revelation. Apart from the collections of paintings, many volumes of The Story of a Soul remain to be published. The trustees of the Havyavahana Trust have resolved to do their best to fulfil Huta’s intentions for all that she had prepared, in order to share with the whole of humanity as much as possible of the wealth of treasures which the Mother had bestowed on her over the 18 years that they worked together; but without her personal guidance and input that work must necessarily remain incomplete.
How grateful we must be to the Mother for all the treasures that she poured out on Huta; and how grateful we must be to Huta for all that she has shared with us – an inspiring legacy for the future.
About the Author: Shraddhavan is a writer, educator, translator and editor. She was a student of English language and literature at Bristol University in the United Kingdoms who joined Auroville in 1970 and two years later the Mother gave her the name of ‘Shraddhavan’. She is the In-charge of ‘Savitri Bhavan’, the centre for Sri Aurobindo studies at Auroville which emphasizes on Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem, ‘Savitri’. She also serves as the Editor of the journal Invocation published by ‘Savitri Bhavan’.
Sketch of Huta by the Mother, 1957
Photo taken in London by Mrs. Margaret Fletcher
Huta at work in her studio
Huta at Savitri Bhavan, August 2005
Text and Photographs courtesy : The Havyavahana Trust.